Robert Louis Stevenson is one of my writing heroes, and a constant source of inspiration for me.

A gig last November to coincide (almost) with RLS day was something of a success – you can get a clip of the closing piece, Hyde’s Last Words, featuring the awesome Kenny Mackay on lead guitar. It was kind of fun – due to, er, ‘volume issues,’ we lost touch with the backing track, but with Kenny blazing away, all I had to do was hang onto his coat tails with some sort of rhythm guitar.

I hope to do more Stevenson-related shows some time. I’m available for weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs.

Thrawn Janet

Thrawn Janet has always been one of those stories that just lived on and on in my memory; but it in 2012 I hit on the idea of doing a spoken word recording of it. I re-read it with a performer’s eye, and got more and more excited by the idea.

I was working to a deadline, of a rather strange sort: the climax in the story is set on the 17th August, 1712, so I  released my version on 17th August 2012, the 300th anniversary. Why not?

The project threw up some interesting issues for me. Stevenson’s Scots is – I’m presuming – the type of Edinburgh Scots he grew up with in 1850s and 60s Edinburgh. To my ear, as a twentieth-century Fifer, there’s not that much I don’t recognise, but there are one or two spellings – the word ‘hot’ being rendered as ‘het,’ for example – that give rise to a pronunciation that doesn’t seem right to me. So I’ve had to produce my own reading script – and as uncomfortable as I might feel changing a single syllable of the Master’s words, I feel much more comfortable with the result.

The full version of Thrawn janet is now available.

I’m now working on a full audio version of Markheim,which I planned to release on 28th August 2013. Unfortunately, it proved a little more tricky than I anticipated. By way of compensation, there is now Hyde’s Last Words,  a piece of my own composition which adds Edward’s version of events to the multi-layered narrative. Careful, it’s X-rated!


  1. I’m afraid I’m a dour critic of bad audio readings, but I’m glad to say that I found your reading very fine – no false notes to my ear at all. So thank you very much, and I look forward to the glorious 17th.
    (But one thing: he would have pronounced his name as Lewis rather than Louie. It’s a tough point whether we give it the pronunciation he used or the one that is standard today.)

  2. A great project: Stevenson’s prose gives pleasure in performance because he sees literature as a temporal, music-like event. I’d like to do something similar to this for the essays. Looking forward to hearing the finished interpretation.

  3. AT the end it would be useful to make available a list of your adaptations of the text, just in case there are any experts on 1870s Edinburgh forms of Scots who can comment on them – but enough – I’ll let you get on with the project

  4. Pronunciation of his name or the lexical ambiguities aside, if people are listening to the bold RLS, it’s good enough for me. Its a great project, big man. Have at it.

  5. The recording of ‘Thrawn Janet’ was great, and I played it to my Advanced Higher students who found it really helped them get inside the whole Scots-as-communal-voice aspect of the narrative. My vote would be for ‘Markheim’ for your next effort – intense psychological drama of the highest order.

    • Russell,

      Many thanks for that – I’m chuffed to bits Thrawn Janet was of help to your Advanced Higher students. I’ll certainly have a look at Markheim again: as you say, it’s a fine piece.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.